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Masvingo master plan raises stink

by Staff reporter
01 Apr 2022 at 09:34hrs | Views

RED flags have been raised over a deal to design a master plan for development between Masvingo City and the Urban Development Corporation (UDCORP) amid allegations of flagrant violation of public tendering processes.

Sources at Masvingo city council raised concerns in an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent about the deal, which they described as opaque. Masvingo City is expected to pay close to US$200 000 for the project when other local authorities of similar size, such as Rusape and Norton, paid about US$130 000 for the same project using competitive bids through public tenders. The sources pointed out that because of the amounts involved in producing a master plan, tender procedures should have been followed before a consultant was engaged.

"Procedurally, Masvingo City should have opened the master plan to tender through inviting competitive bidders but in this case, Masvingo City management cherry-picked UDCORP," a senior official, who requested not to be named, said.

"What is also surprising is that the deal was agreed on by management between the two entities without input from technical experts.

"As we speak, the technical experts from Masvingo are unwilling to be part of the project because if there is an investigation into the deal heads will roll both at UDCORP and city council," the source said.

According to the Public procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act, Masvingo City was supposed to go for tender.

"This programme involves the use of public funds and as such there must be a clear procurement procedure," the source added.

Contacted for comment, UDCORP general manager Hashmon Matemera referred all enquiries to the Masvingo local authority. Masvingo City town clerk Edward Mukaratirwa dismissed the allegations adding that it was permissible to engage a public institution to offer such services without going to tender.

"It's called direct procurement and it is permissible in terms of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act Chapter 22:23," he said.

Mukaratirwa said council had also successfully engaged the Local Government and Public Works ministry's Department of Valuation and Estates for valuation of council assets without going to tender.

"We also want to engage the Ministry of Local Government to do the general valuation for us for rating purposes, again we are doing this without going to tender and there is nothing irregular about that," he said.

Mukaratirwa was, however, at pains to explain how Masvingo was paying US$200 000, a figure way above the threshold required by the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Praz), while engaging a consultant without going to tender. He also failed to justify why Masvingo City opted for direct procurement instead of going for a public tender.

"The US$200 000 we are paying is actually lower than what we would have paid a private consultancy," he said, adding that it was unreasonable to compare Masvingo to Rusape or Norton.

However, sources in the sector argued that Rusape and Masvingo were actually similar in size while Norton was arguably bigger in terms of population. Government set up UDCORP primarily to encourage and assist local authorities to co-ordinate urban growth and development.

It was also expected to improve the standards of living of the people through the development of proper housing and related infrastructure while also offering audit services to the local authorities. UDCORP also offers town planning, property development, project planning and management and assurance services.

Source - The Zimbabwe Independent
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